Ending the Opioid Crisis
Years into our nation’s devastating opioid crisis, the numbers remain startling and alarming. In 2020, 134 people died from opioid overdoses in Onondaga County, while 63 lost their lives from heroin — roughly 30% increases from the year prior. More than 400 people were treated by emergency services for opioid or heroin overdoses alone. The situation is just as dire in our rural counties –16 people died from opioid overdoses in Wayne County, double the total from 2019, and 27 in Cayuga, more than triple. And the worst part? These tragedies are not outliers. This crisis is only growing.
These are not anonymous numbers on a statistical spreadsheet. They are our parents, children, neighbors, and friends from all different socioeconomic backgrounds.
While serving at the Pentagon as a Middle East policy advisor, I assisted in tackling some of the toughest challenges our nation faced in one of the most fragile regions in the world. One of the things I learned when confronting these complex problems was the need for strong leadership, bold action, and an unbiased, unconflicted commitment to achieve success in the mission at hand. It’s long past time for that same leadership to be exhibited at home so we can reduce this terrible epidemic and start saving lives.
Unfortunately, we haven’t seen much of those traits from Washington.
Washington politicians have spent years spouting the same old talking points and claiming a commitment to address addiction. But in reality, it’s just lip service as they refuse to address the problem in a substantive, fundamental way. Worse, they’re still cozying up to the very pharmaceutical companies profiting off American’s addiction in the first place. Too many are failing to look out for the best interests of their constituents and are instead looking out for what’s best for their re-election.
We need a new path.
We need to hold the pharmaceutical companies, who created this crisis through their greed, accountable and ensure they shoulder their portion of the cost to clean up their mess. We must ensure proceeds from the lawsuits and settlements levied against giants like Purdue Pharma are used effectively to expand treatment options and help victims.
We need more Opioid Drug Courts, like the one Syracuse opened in 2019, where non-violent offenders who have been charged with misdemeanors or non-violent felonies receive treatment to help overcome their addiction, rather than incarceration.
We need more funding for research to ensure we are pursuing evidence-based addiction treatment, healthy pain management, as well as preventing overprescription and enhancing monitoring of prescription drugs.
And we need to examine the use of alternative pain medication like medical marijuana and ensure that overdose reversing drugs like naloxone and opioid addiction medication like buprenorphine, which have saved countless lives, are available to those on the front lines of this crisis.
It’s time to commit to fresh leadership and new ideas that identifies the opioid crisis for what it is — a national emergency — and actually treats it as such, instead of using it as political talking points. Only then will we maintain the urgency needed to take immediate action to help thousands of suffering Central New Yorkers begin to heal.
- Hold Pharmaceutical Companies financially liable for creating the epidemic
- Increase investments in treatment, prevention, and recovery centers
- Boost research and investment in overdose-reversing drugs
- Increase research into pain and addiction, and how best to treat it
- Create more data for better management guidelines and evidence-based methods that promote healthy pain management
Help us grow our team and turn NY-22 blue this November!